This trip picked up where the last one left off.  We made it through Ajax, but knew we didn't have enough time to run Upper Woodpecker, so we decided to have lunch near the mines and then run Lower on the way out.  As a rule, we stop at every mine we come across and explore it all that we can.  We haven't quite figured out yet what exactly fuels this curiosity.  We always dawn our helmets and lights and seek out how far back the mine goes, reach the end, turn around and come out, wash, lather, rinse, repeat.  We haven't found one that never ends, so I guess we'll keep on doing what we do and not question the reasons behind it.  While on this excursion, we did, however, come across a new kind of mine- one that makes its own thunder.

I was the lemming leader at first, and as soon as I got a couple feet in I heard the first rumble (so convincing in fact, I actually looked up at the cloudless Arizona sky just to be sure).  When I got to the wasp nest a few more feet in, Jared kindly took the lead while we waited at the entrance.  We kept hearing the thunder from time to time, making us think it was too frequent to be a cave-in, but still not providing any more answers.  J kept going further in though, proving the "must explore" mindset that drives us onward.  He got far enough for us not to be able to see him and then made a turn.  About that time the thunder got its loudest and we heard J yell and start running back for the entrance.  He got to the low ceiling at the entrance, finished his scramble on all fours, and hauled himself out.  I helped him to his feet and we cleared away from the entrance.  The funniest thing would have to be that almost as soon as Jared had yelled, Chris had made his own scamper and was sitting on top the of his Jeep.

Nothing happened though and we were left to speculate what had taken place.  J swore that he was sure something was chasing him, and it did sound like the noise was following him out, growing louder all the while.  While we were still talking, ten Javelina pored out of the entrance and re scared the crap out of us.  Chris saw them first, yelled "Heads up!" and before J and I turned around, we had made our own jump for the Jeeps.  We had the Jeeps parked directly in front of the mine, so the Javlinas had to make a sharp turn to avoid us after running out.  One small one failed to be as agile and tumbled out, bounced off one of the tires, and made a beeline straight for J.  J was back on the ground and had to boost up on both Jeeps to keep the little guy from running straight into him.  Before we had time to regain our composure and get a handle on our laughing, five more tore out at us and took off into the desert hills.

The part that sucks was that this was the second time we were left beating ourselves silly for not following our instincts and grabbing the video camera and capturing this unbelievable incident on tape (The other was the mine rappelling/owl family incident).  But I guess Jared did walk away with no hoof marks or nasty bite marks.  But we are seriously thinking about making him go back another day, so we can capture it on film.

On to the actual trail report:

Even though we were getting tired, we felt the need to get one more trail in before calling it a day, so we went back out and found Lower Woodpecker.  It's another wash where no trail is to be found, so you must improvise.  We ended up running it down stream which lead to some pretty steep drop-offs.  The trail didn't have near as many obstacles as Ajax and took barely any time to complete.  There is one part that appears to be completely impassable, but both Jeeps made it, each taking their own approach.  This part looked like it would actually be easier to do going upstream, but oh well.

The approach J took at this spot forced him to use his rockers to help him make a couple 90 degree turns in the stream bed.  He had already learned in Ajax what a valuable asset they could prove to be, and well, let's just say paint wasn't a concern anymore either.  Chris took an alternate way that looked like a bypass, but ended up being a steep rock slide.  He didn't like the angle, but he put everything where it needed to be and made it down like a pro.

Neither of them got stuck like Ajax, and like mentioned before, they did the trail in no time.  We were all completely drained, and headed on out to the pavement.  It's here that they started noticing all the new noises and vibrations their Jeeps had earned.  But like the "must explore" instinct dictates, you can be sure they'll be here again before you can say, "broken transfer case."

*see more pics



The damage, included here was from the whole day.  Some of it, like J's hinge was obviously lost at Ajax, but others could have happened at any point.  Most things that needed to be fixed only required a good hammering or some paint.

  • Chris's bump stop bent some and thus rubbed on the spring causing a vibe/noise.

  • They both lost their driver side spring clips.

  • J bent his center skid and the bow caused some problems. He was hearing some noise and feeling something knock under his floorboard.  The dealer said they'd need $1000 to fix all the problems associated with the noise. We got underneath and upon further inspection saw that the bow in the plate lifted the drivetrain up more than it needed to be and caused a shift linkage rod on the T-case to be at an odd angle.  This caused a simple ceramic ring, that was set in one link that the angled one passed through, to not let the rod pass smoothly back and forth during the course of driving, but to rub instead- enough to cause the noises and the thump. We went ahead and picked up a skid from the junk yard for $55 rather than trying to match the original angle.  Same as it ever was.

  • Chris has some driveline vibration in his drive shaft that seems to stemming from his T-case.  Time to put the Atlas II in and kiss that troubling slip yoke goodbye.